A new Scottsdale company is fulfilling the last wishes of people who are about to die.
My Hidden Legacy was started last year by investor relations specialist Byron Burke, 54, and co-founder Bonnie Melrose, a mother of two and grandmother of four.
The company prepares and delivers gifts for people in the final stages of a terminal illness - after their passing.
The gifts are given to surviving spouses, relatives, friends or just about anyone either on a one-time basis or once annually for as long as 20 years.
The company surprised Las Vegas resident Anne Perkins recently with a bottle of champagne.
"My longtime friend and I always shared a bottle of champagne whenever we got together," Perkins said. "She had breast cancer, and we knew it was terminal. A month after she died, I got this bottle of champagne and a note from her thanking me for our friendship. It was a total surprise, and it really shook me up. But after I thought about it, I felt wonderful."
Prices range from $50 for a gift valued at $250 to 10 percent of the cost of the gift if it's over $1,000.
"It has nothing to do with money, insurance or wills," Burke said. "It's an outside-the-box way to give an emotional gift that will be remembered forever."
Burke has already received requests on his Internet site from clients across the country and from many English-speaking nations in the world.
Burke and Melrose are meeting with Valley hospices, funeral homes and other agencies, including the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer's Association and the Arizona Bereavement Alliance to explain how the company works.
For 20 years Burke worked as an investor specialist for cancer laboratories in his native Idaho Falls, Idaho, before moving to the Valley.
He said he got the idea for his company after suffering the loss of several members of his family, including his parents, brothers and his 8-month-old son.
He said legendary comedian Jack Benny traditionally gave his wife, Mary Livingstone, a single red rose every day of their marriage. When Benny learned of his pending death, he made arrangements for his wife to continue receiving a single red rose every day after he died. The rose was delivered daily for years before she, too, died.
"My own losses and Jack Benny's plan combined to help me create My Hidden Legacy," Burke said.
Burke and Melrose meet with the gift-givers sometimes personally or via the Internet. They work out a written service agreement outlining details of what, when and who the gift is to be delivered to after the giver dies. The gift may include personal messages.
No one other than the giver, My Hidden Legacy and a designated individual such as an executor of the estate or a trusted friend knows about the gift, Burke explained.
Larry Woodruff, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, said the company could have a positive effect on both the giver and recipient.
"It can help the person who is dying by creating a positive emotion by knowing they will be pleasantly remembered," said Woodruff, a senior lecturer at ASU on the topics of success and happiness.